CBS makes it official: Leslie Moonves is out
It’s a done deal: CBS Corp. has ousted its embattled Chairman Leslie Moonves.
In a statement released Sunday, the company announced that Chief Operating Officer Joseph Ianniello will temporarily replace Moonves, who has been dogged by allegations of sexual misconduct. Six more women accused the 68-year-old executive in a new article released earlier in the day by The New Yorker.
As part of the agreement, both CBS and Moonves will immediately donate $20 million to organizations that support the #MeToo movement. Moonves will not receive any severance benefits other than what the company describes as “certain fully accrued and vested compensation and benefits.” Any future pay off will depend on the results of investigations into the myriad claims against Moonves, which he has denied.
CBS also settled its ongoing legal woes with National Amusements, Inc., which means there will be no merger of CBS and Viacom for at least two years.
“For the past 24 years it has been an incredible privilege to lead CBS’s renaissance and transformation into a leading global media company,” Moonves said in a statement released Sunday evening. “The best part of this journey has been working alongside the dedicated and talented people in this company. Together, we built CBS into a destination where the best in the business come to work and succeed. Untrue allegations from decades ago are now being made against me that are not consistent with who I am. Effective immediately I will no longer be Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of CBS. I am deeply saddened to be leaving the company. I wish nothing but the best for the organization, the newly comprised board of directors and all of its employees.”
Time’s Up, which launched in January in response to widespread allegations of sexual misconduct across the media and entertainment industries, said in a statement Sunday, “Six more women have made bone-chilling allegations of abuse, harassment and retaliation against Les Moonves. We believe them. These new allegations are in addition to the previous six women who have already bravely spoken out and detailed horrific behavior from Moonves. Nineteen current and former CBS employees have also alleged that former CBS News Chairman Jeff Fager condoned sexual harassment in his division.”
“These allegations speak to a culture of toxic complicity at CBS, where the safety of women was continuously ignored to protect the careers of powerful men and the corporation,” the statement continued. “The CBS Board of Directors has an obligation to move swiftly and decisively to create a safe work environment for all and rid the company of this toxic culture.”
Among the new accusations made to The New Yorker is one by veteran television executive Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb, who worked with Moonves in the late 1980s. Golden-Gottlieb tells The New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow “that she filed a criminal complaint late last year with the Los Angeles Police Department, accusing Moonves of physically restraining her and forcing her to perform oral sex on him, and of exposing himself to her and violently throwing her against a wall in later incidents.”
In a statement to The New Yorker, Moonves acknowledged three of the six new encounters detailed by the outlet Sunday, but said they were consensual: “The appalling accusations in this article are untrue,” the statement said. “What is true is that I had consensual relations with three of the women some 25 years ago before I came to CBS. And I have never used my position to hinder the advancement or careers of women. In my 40 years of work, I have never before heard of such disturbing accusations.”
The first six women accused Moonves of sexual misconduct in a lengthy article published in The New Yorker last month, which also suggested that the company maintains a testosterone-fueled culture where “everything feels old, the people, the furniture, the culture, the mores.” One of the accusers is actress Illeana Douglas (Six Feet Under), who reportedly alleges she was fired from a 1997 pilot after refusing Moonves’ advances, which she says included “violent kissing” and holding her down on his office couch.
At the time of those first six misconduct accusations, Moonves released this statement to The New Yorker, which was also obtained by EW: “Throughout my time at CBS, we have promoted a culture of respect and opportunity for all employees, and have consistently found success elevating women to top executive positions across our Company. I recognize that there were times decades ago when I may have made some women uncomfortable by making advances. Those were mistakes, and I regret them immensely. But I always understood and respected — and abided by the principle — that ‘no’ means ‘no,’ and I have never misused my position to harm or hinder anyone’s career. This is a time when we all are appropriately focused on how we help improve our society, and we at CBS are committed to being part of the solution.”
A former actor, Moonves went on to become one of the most powerful men in the industry after resuscitating CBS. His compensation reflects his value to the company: The New Yorker reports that he earned nearly $70,000,000 last year, making him one of the highest-paid executives in the world.